At some point, when I was sat on top of Mt. Eden, contemplating Auckland, missing home and family and feeling generally lost Shannon and I arranged to go to Cornwall Park, climb the summit there and get a ‘better’ view of Auckland.
We met at Crave, naturally.
Grabbing our morning fix and heading off to One Tree Hill, Shannon was my personal tour guide, filling me in on all the local history as we made our way there.
It was a glorious day.
The sun was bright, the sky clear and the air crisp. It reminded me of autumn in England: before the rain starts, before it gets wet, that strange in between when summer is still lingering and you could be forgiven for feeling like a visit to a beer garden.
We parked up and started heading to the summit, coffees in hand, safe in the knowledge we were ‘those girls‘.
Panting my way up the hill, we dodged sloppy piles of shit, finding the wooly culprits further down the road.
It reminded me of Calke Abbey in it’s way, aside from the huge hill, we could have been on a walk on any English estate.
There were people on their way down, keener that us, already up and their way down. We passed tourists with sensible shoes and tourists without sensible shoes, families attempting to entertain the children on one more day of what’s felt like an endless Easter break and those annoyingly fit people, headphones in, seemingly effortlessly jogging up and down for some morning cardio.
I’m no where near as aerobically fit as I used to be, and having
probably developed asthma since being in New Zealand, any amount of puffing feels like there needs to be decent reward.
Thankfully the views from the top of the hill were beautiful.
It was a better vantage point of Auckland than Mt. Eden, and rather than feeling lost, I felt loss: it was unfair it had taken this long for me to see the beauty here, to feel like I could settle in and make friends.
Everyone I’ve spoken to has said that that’s just ‘Auckland’ – people are either born and raised and die here, or they’ve moved here from elsewhere. Expats and tourists, temporary citizens, all heading to the bright lights of the city: it feels transient.
The people I’ve gotten on with best since I’ve got here aren’t from Auckland, which probably says a lot, but I made my decision. Like the countless others who are here, I came because there was work, and I’m staying because I have to.
There was plenty to read, little pockets of history hidden in the sides of the hill.
Flattened tops of mounds marked where old tribes had lived and I was reminded of countless lessons on castles and their construction in year 7.
We took the long way down, avoiding the hoards of people, a dry dirt track carved into the side of the hill from hundreds of feet before ours.
I like walking down hill, I’m much sturdier on my feet, uphill usually involves a stumble or two, but down hill I’m like a mountain goat.
Shannon pointed out the local nature, including a Tui, which she (quite rightly) told me had the most beautiful call.
We were less than 10kms from the heart of Auckland, the bustling CBD of the city and yet you could pretend you were in the country. Miles away from anyone. As we walked along a tree lined path, I could imagine the newly weds running through the leaves, trying to capture that perfect woodland shot, without all the effort of finding an actual woodland.
It was a beautiful morning, and the walk felt good.
For the first time since I’d got here, I really felt like I could make a go of it in Auckland, and I suddenly knew exactly what people meant when they said you never really settle down here.
Moments, weeks, months, years…pockets where it feels like home, feels like you belong and then those jarring periods when it all suddenly stops being familiar. Where it’s no longer a place you look on with fondness and you want to leave.
When it feels like everyone is saying: “I’ve got to get out as. Soon as I can afford to I’m leaving.”, when the coffee shops seem full of half heard conversations and a sense of restlessness and suddenly it’s overwhelming hard to still be here.
Today was refreshing. It was nice to find parts of Auckland that are beautiful, that I could see myself coming back to again and again.
Not having a car has definitely made it harder to be here, I’ve got a very closed view of the city and the further away from the CBD I go, the more I like it.
It’s difficult, I don’t think Auckland ever had a fair chance, it was always going to feel like my prison and in a strange way I’m glad I’ve hated it.
I’ve always wanted to come to New Zealand, always wanted to spend a few weeks immersed in nature, hikes and adventure, bungy jumps and zorbing and extreme sports.
Auckland is ruined for me, but New Zealand isn’t and when I’m so often told how notoriously difficult Auckland is to love, I don’t feel so bad about hating it.
I know that I’m not here forever, I know that eventually, there’s an end date.
I don’t know if that makes it easier or worse.
I’ve never lived anywhere like Auckland.
Never spent so long somewhere that doesn’t feel like home, that doesn’t begin to feel familiar and comforting. England was still home, not in the permanent was Melbourne feels like home, but despite knowing we’d probably never live there again, we still enjoyed the year we spent together in Ashby; it was familiar and comforting and we have days when we miss it. Even Phnom Penh, with it’s heat and dirt and smog and dust and smell was still home in it’s way.
It’s never felt right.